PACIFIC OCEAN (Apr. 1, 2011) Naval Air Crewmen 2nd Class Conrad Jutras observes the Japanese coastline while conducting search and rescue operations on board an SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the Warlords of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 51. Warlords’ assets are currently assigned to the guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67) and are currently supporting humanitarian assistance operations in support of Operation Tomodachi. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Charles Oki)

USS BLUE RIDGE, At Sea (Apr. 1, 2011) - Seventh Fleet forces continue support of Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) in Operation Tomodachi. Today’s focus of effort was the grim task of searching for human remains off the Tohoku coast using both aircraft and surface searches, as the bodies of victims which initially sunk may rise back to the surface over time.

Additional aerial reconnaissance and search sorties are scheduled for tomorrow. The Japan Self Defense Force requested U.S. assistance due to the vast size of the search area. Locations of remains will be marked and that data sent to the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force for retrieval and honorable interment of the victims.

USNS Safeguard (ARS 50) and USS Tortuga (LSD 46), Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 (MDSU 1), Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 (EOD 5) and Underwater Construction Team 2 (UCT 2) concluded survey and obstacle identification operations at the port of Miyako today. Landing Craft Unit 1627 (LCU) leveraged side scan sonar to survey approximately four square kilometers of the port while divers identified and marked for salvage more than 80 obstacles over a 72 hour period. Divers from U.S. units trained Japanese contract divers on specific methods for marking and identifying obstacles and provided detailed survey data for their use in salvage efforts. The imagery and obstacle marking and identification substantially reduces the timeframe for returning the port to normal operations. After completing the survey and turnover of information, Safeguard and Tortuga’s will plan for survey of the port of Kessennuma/Oshima.

187 Sailors and Marines from the USS Essex (LHD 2) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) supporting Japan Ground Self Defense Forces began Operation “Field Day”, a clearing and clean up mission on the remote island of Oshima off the coast of Kessennuma. Four Humvees, a dump truck, a water truck and a fuel truck embarked two LCUs to Oshima harbor for assistance with debris clearance activities in the port as well as local schools and government buildings. The island, which is dependent upon ferry service from the mainland, has been isolated since March 11 when the tsunami washed its ferries ashore. The LCUs returned to USS Essex upon offload of the equipment and personnel. Essex will retrieve them at the completion of the mission.

One U.S. Navy barge containing 300,000 gallons of fresh water is moored at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, and the second containing an additional 200,000 gallons departed Onahanna port today to join the fresh water cooling efforts. Japanese authorities will use the fresh water to replace salt water currently in some of the reactors. USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) conducted resupply at sea (RAS) activities with the USS Essex (LPD 2) Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) and the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Carrier Strike Group, onloading a total of 447 pallets of Human Assistance Disaster Relief supplies. These supplies will be delivered to the port of Yokosuka where HADR supplies are being consolidated for further distribution as indicated by the Japan Ground Self Defense Force.

USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and USS Germantown (LSD 42) will be released from Operation Tomodachi tomorrow and proceed to Okinawa. USS Fitzgerald, USS McCambell and USS Mustin are inYokosuka replenishing supplies and are planned to rejoin Operation Tomodachi upon completion.

Currently 17 ships, 130 aircraft and 14,050 personnel are actively engaged in operation Tomodachi. Those ships include USS Tortuga (LSD 46), USNS Safeguard (T-ARS-50), USS Essex (LHD 2), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), USS Germantown (LSD 42), USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Preble (DDG 88), USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), USS Cowpens (CG 63), USS Shiloh (CG 67), USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4), USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10), USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USNS Mathew Perry (T-AKE 9), USS John S. McCain (DDG and USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204).

Since Operation Tomodachi started, U.S. 7th Fleet forces have delivered more than 260 tons of relief supplies to survivors of the tsunami and earthquake in support of Japan Self Defense Force efforts. To date, 139 aerial reconnaissance and search sorties have been conducted with more planned in the coming days.

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